It’s an exciting time to build a brand using social platforms like Instagram. The popular photo-sharing app is fun, simple and growing—Instagram has more than 700 million monthly active users and sky-high user engagement levels.
Building a tribe of Instagram followers who could potentially convert into customers is a lot more valuable than building a list of random people. If you plan to expand your marketing to one of the fastest-growing and most engaged audiences online, you need to approach growing your audience in a results-oriented, laser-focused way to get strong ROI potential.
As a startup, we looked at ways to build our Instagram audience for its mammoth marketing power, to promote and sell our services and to create a community. After testing many techniques, we built our Instagram following with these 10 laser-focused strategies.
1. Get smart with your likes
It’s basic, we’re reciprocating creatures: liking other people’s Instagram photos generates more followers and likes for you. Laser-focused “liking” means staying in your ideal customer space. Find photos of potential customers, not just a random sampling of popular accounts. Take time to click “search” and find areas or hashtags that suit your target market and like the photo that’s there.
2. Comment with heart
Statistics show that Instagram users prefer commenting over liking. If you comment on other people’s photos with relevant and interesting comments, they are much more likely to click on your profile and reciprocate with a follow. If you want to increase your ratio of follows for your time on Instagram, writing comments can build your follower list a lot faster than only double tapping on images.
3. Become a hashtag ninja
Hashtag monitoring is basically finding niche hashtags in your genre and following and watching for posts with that hashtag. You can do this by signing up for a hashtag monitoring service and selecting popular and relevant hashtags. It can be a topic, interest or location. Watching these will help you gain insight on market trends, keep an eye on your competition as well as show you people who are likely your ideal customer. Comment and like images with relevant hashtags to open up to new followers.
4. Regram with love
If you take a look around, you may be surprised at how many Instagram users are already sharing photos of your products, services, quotations or business. These same users will be delighted to let you share their photos with your followers if you ask. Regramming one of your follower’s photos is a great way to give back to your community, create a vibe of mutual respect and also get in front of their followers in an authentic and fun way.
5. Post to Instagram regularly
Trends and statistics on Instagram over the last couple years show that accounts with the most followers post a bit more than once a day up (on average these accounts are posting 2-3 photos a day). Setting up a regular schedule, or using a posting service such as Buffer will help you maintain your frequency. But remember, above all else, post engaging content. Because, especially on such a visual application, quality matters more than quantity.
6. Cross-promote your Instagram account
Make sure you have links and feeds to your Instagram account on your website. You can also add a widget that shows your most recent pictures and a quick follow button.
Set up signs in your office or retail locations and add the icon and your user name to product packaging. Meanwhile, when you ship products include a flyer with incentives or giveaways for customers who share a photo of their purchase on Instagram.
7. Find brand influencers
Find your most loyal customers on Instagram. Ask them to be brand ambassadors. This may cost a little money, especially if they have a large following, but it’s definitely worth the investment. Influencers can share your product or message in their own style that will resonate with their followers. Get them to post and tag you. If you run this along with a contest they can mention, you’ll be sure to build your following a lot faster.
8. Run a contest
Create a contest that attracts followers but also creates excitement and sharing appeal. Most Instagram contests include incentives to upload and share selfies with a unique hashtag and tag to your account (so you can confirm their entry). Remember, people will only enter an Instagram contest if it’s worth it for them.
9. Hashtag some more
A TrackMaven study discovered that posts with the most interactions have 11+ hashtags. So, it’s time to get busy and discover the best hashtags for your niche. Search Instagram, and check out brands and posts similar to yours. Make a list of 30 hashtags. Save them in your notes so you can easily copy and paste when you need them. When you’re ready to post your image, write an original description of the photo, add a question or request a response from your followers. Copy and paste your list of hashtags into the first comment so you don’t clutter the post message.
10. Ask users to ‘Tag a Friend’
This is a simple, yet very effective strategy, especially for events or launches. Share an encouraging quote, message or lifestyle shot and ask your followers to tag a friend that can relate. The response is usually great because you’re offering a point of connection and a way for others to build relationships.
Taking a methodical approach to grow your Instagram following will open you up to a wider audience and increase your impact when it comes to online promotions and sales. Instagram is in its infancy as far as a sales platform, but there will be many advancements for direct sales in the coming years, so start building your audience today. A version of this post originally appeared here.
This article has been edited.